Chapter 3: Skepticism
Fandom: Static Shock
Word Count: 3183 (10,198 so far)
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Summary: When Virgil accidentally offers to help his worst enemy turn his life around, he soon finds himself juggling far too many secrets and an inconvenient crush.
Chapter 1: Blame the Rain
Chapter 2: Insults, Doubt & Aggravation
Virgil is not looking forward to this conversation at all and Richie's smug looks are certainly not helping. Best friend or not, the blond is getting on his last nerve and if he doesn't stop snickering, Virgil is going to smack him upside his head.
“It's not funny!” He growls at Richie, jabbing one finger in his direction. “My dad may believe in second chances but there's no way he's going to be happy about me tutoring a Bang Baby. You know how much he worries.”
“I don't know why. You've proved you can take care of yourself, or at least stay alive long enough for me to save your ass. Your dad should try and remember that.” Richie says, shrugging, and it's true that ever since the metahuman told his father about being Static he's been a lot better about letting Virgil do what needs to be done. But that doesn't mean he's ever been very happy about it and this is definitely going to rile him up.
“He's my pops, it's his job to worry, and I can't fight off Hotstreak without revealing my secret so he might actually be right this time.” Virgil tells the blond with a sigh. “You're the genius, I don't suppose you have some irrefutable logic I can use to keep him off my back?”
“Sorry bro, don't think I can help you there.” Richie refuses, though he doesn't actually sound all that apologetic. “I mean you know I'll support you in this just like all your other plans, but I still think you should have left Hotstreak to rot after everything he's done to us. Why did you agree to this craziness anyway? That guy was practically your nemesis, so rain or not, you could have said no.”
“I don't know.” Virgil answers, shrugging as he tries to put his thoughts in order. “I just... I think I believe him.” While the teen still has some doubts that Hotstreak will manage to stay out of trouble, he simply can't shake the feeling that the other Bang Baby is sincere about the attempt.
I mean he was even sort of paying attention in class and he actually seemed offended when Ms. Chan implied he was an idiot. Plus if he was faking why would he have bothered to be nice? Virgil wonders, thinking about how the other metahuman had dried his clothes. I mean still a bit of a jerk, yeah, but he spent all of lunch with us and he seemed to be enjoying himself. Who knew he cared so much about highlighters? That's a lot of effort to put in for a lie and it's not like he knows I'm Static so this can't be some secret plan to throw me off my game. Even if it might be working.
Of course Hotstreak could just be planning to use him as a convenient alibi and keep committing crimes on the side, but something about the way the other metahuman had been acting this morning makes Virgil think that's not the case.
So he shrugs again, choosing to ignore his friend's continuing incredulity. These days it's rare for he and Richie to disagree on superhero matters and truthfully the teen doesn't like it, but as long as the blond still has his back then the other doesn't need to understand. He just needs to follow Virgil's lead for now and if he's right Richie will come around eventually. “Honestly I can't really explain it, but I'd never forgive myself if he is telling the truth and goes back to prison because I wouldn't give him a chance.”
“Fine. Fine.” As the teen hoped he would, the blond sighs and gives in, waving one hand dismissively. “I still think this is nuts but if I can't convince you to let Hotstreak suffer like he deserves then I'll help you keep him straight. However, if this turns out to be some kind of long con, I am so going to say I told you so. And you're on your own with your dad.”
“Fair enough, bro. If I were you I'd probably think the same.” Virgil tells him, smiling to show Richie that there's no resentment here. “Now I guess it's time to face the music.” He adds before pushing open the door and walking into his house.
“Hey pops! Are you home?” The teen calls out and when both Sharon and his father turn out to be sitting at the kitchen table, he can't decide whether to feel relief or dread.
So Virgil delays instead.
He mumbles a return greeting as he and Richie toss their bags on the stairs and then join the rest of his family in the kitchen, where the teen forces his usual cheeky smirk onto his face. His sister rolls her eyes at him and he snipes right back, thankful for the extra distraction. But their fights lack the spite they used to have when they were younger and the pair quiets immediately as soon as their dad narrows his eyes. “Thank you children. Now, son, Richie, how was your day?” Mr. Hawkins asks and Virgil knows his time is up.
“Uh, yeah about that... Something happened this morning which I need to talk to you about.” The teen says awkwardly. He pauses, trying to figure out how to continue and ends up stumbling over his words when his father looks at him with worry in his eyes. “No it's nothing dangerous. Well not really dangerous... maybe. You see... um... did you know Hotstreak was out of jail?”
“What?!” Sharon yells in disbelief. “Shouldn't he have been put away for life by now? That kid was nothing but trouble even before the Bang made him dangerous.”
“Isn't that a little harsh?” Virgil replies, though he can't say exactly why her words annoy him so much considering that Richie has been giving him the same arguments all day and dangerous is kind of an understatement. “I mean I know he's a punk but he's never seriously hurt anyone. At least not after he stopped trying to kick my ass. Really it's been mostly petty theft for years and don't you work with delinquents all the time? Rehabilitating guys like him is your job so you shouldn't be so damn skeptical all the time.”
His vehemence leaves his sister gaping while Richie just sinks lower in his chair and so Mr. Hawkins steps in to find out what the heck is going on. “Son? Why are you defending him? I thought you hated this Francis kid.”
“Well hate is a strong word...” The teen prevaricates, pausing again until his dad says his name in that special tone he has and Virgil cracks. “Okay, fine. So I may have agreed to help Hotstreak graduate, which means he's going to be over here studying a few times a week. Quite a few times. Maybe every day.”
“He's what?! But he's a mutant pyromaniac. What if he attacks us?” Sharon shrieks and Virgil winces at the pitch she reaches.
“Hotstreak's not going to do anything, sis. He'd get sent back to jail immediately and I think he's serious about changing his ways. Rubberband Man did and you thought he was dreamy.” And I'm so glad those days are over. That was sickening to watch.
She just huffs and Virgil knows that he's won for now, though she'll probably make herself scarce whenever the other metahuman is around. At least his father hasn't started yelling at him, even if he doesn't seem particularly overjoyed about the news. In fact there's a definite frown growing on his face and when Virgil pauses for breath, his dad asks: “Are you sure about this son? You know I do believe in giving everyone a second chance but Francis has been a criminal as long as you've known him. Why would he suddenly have a change of heart?”
“Hotstreak's eighteen now, which makes all the difference in court and he knows that. So while he may be a delinquent, that doesn't mean he wants to go to jail for the rest of his life and I know he doesn't want to lose his powers.” The superhero tells his father seriously, letting a hint of the certainty he uses as Static seep into his voice.
It seems to work because after a long moment of consideration his dad sighs and nods his head. “All right Virg. I'll trust your judgment and give the kid a chance for now. But I expect you to watch him closely while he's here and I want to meet him for myself.”
“Of course pops, I'll bring him by tomorrow. Thanks.” Virgil says, rather surprised that everyone has given in so easily but he's not going to look this gift horse in the mouth. “I'm like 90% sure that everything will be fine.”
Which is of course when Richie pokes him in the back and hisses under his breath, “V there's something you need to see.” So the superhero makes his excuses and the two teens run up to his room, where they shut the door tightly behind them so that the blond can set Backpack on the desk. The little robot is going crazy and Richie pulls up his viewscreen to see what it has to say.
“What's going on?” Virgil asks as the robot gives off a series of clicks and beeps which he knows will actually mean something to his friend. Richie keeps trying to teach him to interpret his creation but the teen has yet to pick up more than a few key alarms and codes. Though this pattern actually does sound vaguely familiar and a bad feeling begins to form in his gut as he realizes why.
“It's Hotstreak isn't it?” He asks, swearing under his breath when the blond looks up triumphantly and nods. “Yeah it is. I told you he was bad news. He's using his powers already.”
But while the superhero knows that Backpack isn't making a mistake, not about something like this, he just can't believe that the other metahuman has broken his promise already. Dammit it just doesn't make any sense. It hasn't even been a whole day yet and I really thought he was sincere... I must be losing my touch. Although...
“Where is he?” Virgil asks and when Richie names a location over in the warehouse district he feels a spark of hope. “Look, don't call anyone yet. Let me go check it out before you jump to any conclusions and you know just because he's burning stuff doesn't mean I'm wrong.”
His friend agrees, though the blond gives him a weird look as he pulls out his spare costume and starts to change but honestly the superhero can't really blame him. Virgil doesn't know where this weird certainty has come from either because if anyone had asked him even yesterday if he thought Hotstreak could change, the answer would have been an emphatic “hell no.” Yet now his feelings on the matter have done a complete one-eighty and he has no idea why.
Maybe it's just pops' endless harping on forgiveness finally coming home to roost or that weird hint of vulnerability that I thought I saw... Well first things first, I better find out which of us is right and hope I don't have to eat my words.
Virgil slides his mask into place and sticks it on with a spark of electricity, the weight of his responsibility settling firmly on his shoulders. He always feels like a different person once he's in costume, the world sharper and more straightforward, clearer lines between what's right and wrong. He feels stronger, ready to handle whatever life throws at him and he relishes the chance to use his powers without fear of recognition.
Since it's no longer raining, Static hops on his disc and flies toward the edge of town, Richie calling directions through his ear piece until the superhero can see the flames for himself. Hotstreak is standing in an empty lot, throwing fireballs at the discarded cars and he doesn't even notice when the other metahuman drops lightly to the fence.
“You can stand down Gear, he's just blowing off steam,” the teen mutters, trying to keep the relief out of his voice. The redhead still hasn't seen him, so the superhero takes this chance to watch his one-time nemesis and finds himself admiring the other's aim, and only his aim, even if I've never seen him grin like that before. In the past he had always been too busy dodging Hotstreak's fireballs to appreciate his precision, but now he has to admit that the guy's actually got skills.
Damn! That's a nice shot. He thinks, watching the redhead knock a piece of junk out of the air and he's almost sorry when the other metahuman powers down. Static waits a little longer to ensure that Hotstreak actually is finished before he makes himself known and keeps his voice steady, not wanting to start a fight if he can avoid it.
The redhead seems to have the same idea for while their banter is as snarky as always, the older teen makes no sudden movements and he keeps his hands in sight. It's weird to see the difference in Hotstreak's manner now that he's facing Static instead of Virgil, stiff and wary in a way that he was not before. However, his story is the same as it was before and while the superhero keeps his words skeptical, not like this version of me has any reason to believe him, he leaves the pyro with nothing more than a warning and a look of confusion on his face.
Because he's already in costume Static figures that he might as well patrol, especially since the foreseeable future is looking rather packed. So he calls Gear out to join him and the two spend an easy afternoon keeping Dakota safe. Ever since Ebon disappeared the streets have been relatively quiet but they still stop a few petty thieves from jacking an SUV and being seen is half the point.
People need to know that they have someone watching out for them so that they can live without fear and whenever he sees a wide-eyed child staring up at him, something warm curls in his chest. That's why Static does this when a more sensible person would have walked away. It's more than the thrill he gets from using his powers and the awe in their eyes, it's the knowledge that every person he saves means another kid who won't have to grow up without a parent. Another child who will have a chance at life.
He's never told that to anyone, not even Richie, but he thinks his friend understands since Gear has been with him the whole way. No matter their disagreements, the two of them have always managed to make it through all right and Static has faith that the blond will help him sort out his current Hotstreak issue as they've conquered all the rest.
Hey if anyone can keep a former criminal Bang Baby on the straight and narrow long enough to get him a diploma, it's the two of us. We just have to keep him from finding out our secret identities along the way and he should be convinced that I'm not Static after that whole ruse years ago.
So the superhero is feeling optimistic as they finish their rounds, heading back to the Gas Station to drop off their gear and return to the more normal half of their lives. It's always strange to switch back to being Virgil, swapping out the protection of the city in exchange for the protection of his grade from Mrs. Dietrich's red marking pen as soon as his mask comes off.
Although even in this the two friends are not exactly normal teenagers seeing as Richie completes his work in minutes and the other isn't all that far behind despite giving his books to Hotstreak this afternoon. These unique skills are the only reason either of them has managed to keep up their grades while leading double lives, these skills and some judicious begging on Virgil's part when he simply doesn't have time to complete everything himself.
Whenever that happens the teen tells himself that it's not really cheating since he has a damn good reason, although he also made Richie promise never to mention those essays to his father cause he definitely won't see it the same way. However, at the moment homework is rather far from his mind as the two friends are chilling in front of the television, watching old comic book movies and laughing at everything Hollywood gets wrong.
“Man can you imagine if it were really like that?” Virgil asks with a grin as the hero flies off into the sunset with his damsel in his arms. “Maybe then Daisy wouldn't have dumped me for missing too many dates.”
“I think that only works if you actually tell her your secret identity, bro. Otherwise you just seem like a shitty boyfriend which is why she dumped your late ass.” Richie says with a laugh, throwing popcorn at the other teen from where he's sprawled out on the couch.
“Hey at least I've had a girlfriend.” He retorts before sobering as he stops to think it over. “Even if I haven't had time to go on a date in awhile... a few months... maybe years.” Damn has it really been years? Man I need to get a life.
“It's not so bad, V. Superheroes just don't have a lot of time to date. We're lucky to keep our lives together without trying to add significant others to the mix. I mean we haven't even had time to hang out like this in ages.”
Hearing this, Virgil realizes that the other is right and despite the fact that they spend most of their time together, they haven't had a chance to just be friends in far too long. Which is particularly weird considering that things have been so quiet lately but they are Seniors now and somehow time keeps slipping away. Though he's determined that that's going to change. “Yeah we should do this more often.”
However, his friend doesn't seem so sure, shaking his head in disbelief. “Like that's going to happen with Hotstreak around. We'll be lucky to even hang out as much as we do now and it's gonna have to be all code words and shit again.”
While the blond may have a point about the code words, Virgil is hardly going to let Hotstreak get between him and his best friend and so he says exactly that. “Don't be silly Richie, nothing's going to change.”
Chapter 4: A Rhythm of Sorts